Edinburgh Festival Fringe cancelled for 2020, Just For Laughs Montreal joins crowded September hopefuls

Nobody knows how long we’ll be suffering from coronavirus, or holed up in quarantine.

Two of the biggest annual global comedy festivals already have cancelled on 2020 because of it — first came the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which would be happening right now in Australia; and now comes word that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, isn’t happening in August in Scotland.

“Just a few months ago, the idea of Edinburgh without the Fringe and our sister festivals would have been totally unthinkable; now, like so many other aspects of our day-to-day lives, we must pause and take stock in the face of something far bigger,” said Fringe CEO Shona McCarthy (no relation).

She added: “The performing arts have an important role to play in providing a prism through which to process and understand the multiple traumas of this pandemic. Art has always helped shape and reshape how we think of ourselves, and will help now to pull through the threads that unite us as human beings in a globally shared experience. From its earliest beginnings in 1947, the Fringe has provided a totally uncensored platform for artists from all backgrounds, cultures and perspectives to tell their story and shape their own worlds. As we try to adapt in the face of an all-encompassing global emergency, this spirit of shared storytelling and open dialogue feels more important than ever. We look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in 2021. In the meantime, look after each other and stay safe.”

Meanwhile, in North America, our biggest industry confab — Just For Laughs in Montreal — just announced it hopes to go on, just in September/October instead of July.

Here’s the announcement from JFL:

Due to the evolving global situation of COVID-19, the Just For Laughs Group announces today the postponement of its Montréal Just for Laughs Festival, presented in collaboration with Loto-Québec. The festival initially slated to take place this coming July will now take place September 29 to October 11, 2020. This decision was not taken lightly, however made possible by the agility, vitality and creative strength of the company.  

Further details on the festival will be announced this summer. The Just for Laughs Group continues to monitor the evolution of COVID-19 very closely, as well as, the guidelines issued by the Québec government and will adapt accordingly.

“We are energized by the ability of our teams to adapt to current conditions and present a festival redesigned in its form and content as early as the fall,” says Charles Décarie, President and CEO of the Just For Laughs Group. “If the situation permits, we will resume work in the interim and thus be able to play an important role in reviving the cultural sector, but also in the social healing that we all need” he adds.

“The teams in place at Just for Laughs worked hard to achieve this feat and look forward to offering Quebecers, and our International visitors the very best in comedy this fall. I would like to add that in doing so, they are also working to ensure that their colleagues return to the company as quickly as possible,” continues Charles Décarie. “So, we hope that our audiences will come in large numbers this Fall, and that together we can celebrate life that is resuming its course.”

Just For Laughs is currently evaluating various scenarios for the outdoor part of its festival. The decision on this component will be communicated later, depending on the changing context and of course the indications and restrictions put in place by the government regarding urban gatherings.

JFL joins a crowded group of fests thinking and/or hoping large gatherings will be safe come September.

Moontower Comedy Festival in Austin, originally scheduled for late April, picked Sept. 16-19, 2020.

The end of September is where both Bonnaroo (originally June in Tennessee) and Skankfest South (originally March in Houston) hope to convene.

Other big comedy fests, including the Women in Comedy Festival (originally each May in Boston/Cambridge), and the inaugural Netflix is a Joke Festival (set to debut this month in Los Angeles), have postponed indefinitely to wait and see what happens next.

As do we all.

Stay safe. Be safe.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →